Let’s take it from the top, but this time do it like we mean it!
5.5 years on, and here we go again. Under starter’s orders for our next venture.
Are we mad? Partly.
Gluttons for punishment? Certainly.
Battered and bruised from the last experience? Like you wouldn’t believe.
Most people would be rightly advising us to update our CVs and seek out the relative comfort of a PAYE existence (at least for a few years) and decompress from the emotional rollercoaster of the last half decade. It’s certainly tempting.
Yet we find ourselves here by design, having had our lightbulb moment two years into launching our last business.
Full of positivity and self-belief, we launched a recruitment business in 2014, leaving behind our corporate roles. We were adamant that we would be different. A service offering unlike the others. The good guys. Innovators. Trailblazers.
The reality of having no income meant that reinventing the wheel would have to wait. We urgently needed to make a living, and armed with strong networks we found ourselves naively lured into the same traditional and simplistic business model as everyone else.
It was hard to argue against it initially. It worked. Our first trading year saw us race to 20 employees, with a turnover of £1.2m (£450k profit) and winning an industry award for Best Newcomer in the process.
However, rather than feeling a deep sense of satisfaction in our achievements, we felt an overwhelming sense that we were on the wrong path. The business model didn’t feel sustainable or future-proofed in any way.
Our clients were better-equipped than ever before with new digital capabilities and reach, and as such had become increasingly belligerent in their handling of supplier relationships. Sure, the uncertain economic climate played a large part in this ‘race to the bottom’ on cost, but overwhelmingly we were just not valued in the same way.
This commoditisation manifested itself in us as a deep ambivalence to the industry.
After some (much) soul-searching, we decided we weren’t prepared to just suck up this new reality – we had to change our course.
Now was the time to evolve. To find something we absolutely believed in. To strive for something that added real value. Something which candidates and clients could connect with on a much more visceral level.
Although we could see many areas in which to innovate, there was a clear theme which we as front-line recruiters were exposed to more than most. We consistently felt morally conflicted in finding the client’s version of the ‘perfect candidate’, rather than the best person for the job.
We had witnessed multiple injustices and prejudices, almost on a daily basis for years and years. From innocuous comments to outright racism and sexism, truly awful things that were routine, blatant and unapologetically wrong.
“I’m not interested in seeing African candidates – we only want strong communicators.“
“I’ve been told that I can only hire women at the moment, but please only send through 20-somethings.“
Unanimously, we decided that this was the problem we wanted to solve. And so we set about masterminding a diversity and inclusion start-up.
Fast forward to the current day, and whilst working on a bootstrapped budget, we now sit at the culmination of three years of ideating, shaping and validating. We have held multiple client workshops, hundreds of meetings and a we have a finished prototype (well, sort of) under our belts.
The problem of human bias has proven so incredibly complex and so nuanced that we have had more than one false start, and countless sleepless nights.
However, through it all, we just know we are now on the right path. We couldn’t be any further from ambivalence. We have complete meaning. We are where we should be.
Who knows what the next half decade has in store? But one thing is for sure – this time we are doing something we believe in!